Novak Djokovic has dropped the facade in a remarkable exchange with respected tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg over an ongoing ATP power play.
The world No.1 is president of the ATP Player Council and proved a key figure in the ousting of ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode.
Kermode is set to leave his role at the end of 2019 to end a tenure that brought record prize money but also growing complaints from lower-ranked players about their pay and travel schedules.
The saga caused a rift between Djokovic and his long-time rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who hoped Kermode would earn another term.
However, Justin Gimelstob's exit from the ATP board following his court troubles reportedly caused Djokovic to lose some control in the wake of Kermode’s removal.
Federer recently called for Kermode to be "put back ... in the mix" for an extension and Djokovic, sensing the damage, subsequently extended an olive branch for the English executive to rejoin the race.
"If this happens, why not? In our sport we need as many quality candidates as possible," the Serbian said at the Madrid Open earlier this month.
"He's someone that has been a president for quite a few years and knows the tour inside out."
Gimelstob, said to be opposed to Kermode, was the Player Council representative on the ATP board and his replacement was set to be discussed at a meeting between the players at the Italian Open in Rome.
Questioned on the politics of tennis by Rothenberg on Tuesday, Djokovic become agitated at being painted as the puppet master.
“The way it was presented in the media, I didn’t really like it and I don’t think it’s fair that you guys point out myself as the decision-maker,” he said.
“I am the president of council but it consists of 10 players so the majority decides. I am one of the 10.”
Djokovic turned the tables to quiz Rothenberg on agendas and sources, saying he and other reporters are tweeting small pieces of information to create friction.
With the 31-year-old willing to hear out the journalist, Rothenberg sought answers about unwieldy influence and transparency on council decisions.
But having become the main target as the political upheaval split players, Djokovic took aim.
"I feel that I've been exposed way too much for being president of the council and having that role," he said.
Very interesting exchange here bw Novak and Ben Rothenberg- they both have a point. Novak is right that he’s not solely responsible for the PC’s decisions. But surely, as prez, he’s responsible for communicating - accurately & transparently- how and why those decisions are made. https://t.co/ExJK3ccwUO— simpsonsparadox (@littlewonder168) May 14, 2019
"Everyone holds me accountable for every single thing that happens in tennis at the moment, which I think is unfair. Because I'm not the only one there.
"If someone wants to understand the way the structure works he wouldn't be having that approach.
"That's what I'm trying to talk to you about here – not about information going out. Some is correct, some is not.
"I just feel like the way we go about things there is a lack of respect. Just pointing out to one guy and putting all the pressure on him.
"That's the only thing – nothing against you personally. I'm just feeling like the process could be handled differently."
The entire exchange between Rothenberg and Djokovic lasted nine minutes and almost brought an abrupt end to the press conference.
Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil were reportedly the only members of the Player Council in Rome for the meeting to decide Gimelstob's successor.
Pospisil, who has not been ranked higher than world No.72 in the past two years, is fighting to help players ranked outside the top 50.